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Inbox: What will Tribe's infield look like?

Beat reporter Mandy Bell answers questions from Cleveland fans
@MandyBell02
October 21, 2019

CLEVELAND -- A year ago at this time, the Indians were planning how to address their outfield over the offseason. The Tribe carried six outfielders on its 2018 American League Division Series roster: Greg Allen, Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer and Jason Kipnis. Just two of those

CLEVELAND -- A year ago at this time, the Indians were planning how to address their outfield over the offseason.

The Tribe carried six outfielders on its 2018 American League Division Series roster: Greg Allen, Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer and Jason Kipnis. Just two of those players, Allen and Kipnis, were still on the Indians' roster in February, and one of them moved back to second base.

While the worry surrounded the outfield last year, the focus has shifted to the infield 365 days later. Will José Ramírez play second or third base? Who will be some options to fill in the other position?

Let’s take a look at some scenarios in this week’s Inbox:

How do you think the Indians will approach filling second or third base, whichever Ramírez does not play? Re-sign Kipnis, trade, free agency, promotion?
-- Dave P.

Re-sign Kipnis: No
Trade: Possibly
Free agency: Possibly
Promotion: Eventually

The issue is that the free-agent market for second and third basemen isn’t the most attractive. Here’s a list of a handful of some of the top options for each position:

Second basemen (age in 2020, '19 batting average, '19 OPS):
Eric Sogard (34, .290, .810)
Brian Dozier (33, .238, .771)
Jonathan Schoop (28, .256, .777)
Starlin Castro (30, .270, .736)
Brock Holt (32, .297, .771)

Third basemen (age in 2020, '19 batting average, '19 OPS):
Anthony Rendon, who will be out of the Indians’ price range (30, .319, 1.010)
Josh Donaldson, though unlikely (34, .259, .900)
Mike Moustakas (31, .254, .845)
Asdrúbal Cabrera (34, .260, .783)
Todd Frazier (34, .251, .772)

Sogard had a solid year, but in his eight prior years in the Majors, he never produced quite the same numbers. Holt wouldn’t bring a lot of pop to the lineup -- though Cleveland has Franmil Reyes and possibly Bobby Bradley for that now -- but he could bring a decent number of singles and doubles to an offense that needs hitters. And Rendon and Donaldson will be financially out of reach.

This all could make a potential Corey Kluber trade more likely. Eventually, Nolan Jones, the team’s No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, could be a third-base option, but he wouldn’t be ready at the start of the season. Yu Chang could also work into the mix at third. On the other side of the diamond, Mark Mathias played second at Triple-A Columbus this season, and Mike Freeman will also be strongly considered if Ramírez remains at the hot corner.

Think Kluber will be a hot trade topic at the Winter Meetings and will likely be traded before Spring Training?
-- Chris S.

Yes, Kluber will likely be discussed regularly throughout the offseason. Even though the Indians' front office has said it hasn't heard that there will be any changes to the budget this offseason just yet, it will certainly be paying close attention to every penny that is spent. This means that a healthy contract -- even if it is a steal for a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner -- like Kluber’s wouldn’t be too crazy of an idea to flip. However, if the Tribe didn’t want to risk eating $17.5 million in his contract, it would never have exercised his option.

Now, it’d be easier to say that it’s likely to happen before Spring Training if Kluber had been able to return to the big league mound in August like he had hoped, but a strained left oblique sidelined him for the rest of the year after he fractured his right forearm in May. Because of that, the Indians may not be able to get the type of package they’d want in return for the righty, and they’ve proven they will not give anyone up for less than they believe they deserve.

Who has best chance of breaking out of the Minor Leagues and making the Tribe's roster next year?
-- Tim C.

As of now, Daniel Johnson. The 24-year-old outfielder made a strong first impression at big league camp this past February, and the team kept a close eye on him throughout the year. In 84 games with Columbus following his promotion in May, Cleveland’s No. 16 prospect hit .306 with nine homers, 44 RBIs and an .867 OPS. If the Tribe’s plans with Franmil Reyes in right field don’t work out, Johnson could be up with the big league club early in the season.

Will Tyler Naquin be ready by Spring Training? Are there any updates on Carlos Carrasco's role on the pitching staff for 2020? And are there any whispers of a Francisco Lindor extension?
-- Seth

Tyler Naquin will not be ready by Spring Training. He received ACL surgery on his right knee in the middle of September, and the typical time frame to return to Major League game activity is seven to nine months, which would be April-June.

Assuming Carlos Carrasco, who was diagnosed with leukemia in June, has a normal and healthy offseason, the Indians view him as a starting pitcher for 2020.

Francisco Lindor will become a free agent at the end of the 2021 season. At this point, the Indians have not been able to come up with a number that satisfies both parties, and it doesn’t seem like it will happen this offseason, if they are able to eventually settle on one at all.

What was your favorite Indians-related stat of the year?
-- Sarah L., reporter/editor for MLB.com

In a time where players with cannon arms like Aaron Judge and Yasiel Puig roam the outfield, the way that Greg Allen quietly snuck in to record the fastest outfield assist in the Majors this year, nabbing Christin Stewart at the plate on a 100.8-mph missile in the Indians' 2-1 win over the Tigers on Sept. 18, was extremely impressive.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.